There are more sick fish in the area of the 2010 BP oil spill than anywhere else in the Gulf of Mexico.

A government-funded survey of the Gulf, conducted in part by the University of South Florida last summer, cites that the area as a whole, has many sources of possible contamination. These include oil rigs, damaged pipelines and natural oil vents on the sea floor. While this report may seem to some as the beginnings of an exoneration of BP’s responsibility, it is actually being hailed by many as an important first step in proving that the spill is the reason behind the area’s ailing fish population. James Cowan, an oceanography professor at Louisiana State University, is one of those excited by the report.

“We still are seeing sick fish offshore and the USF survey confirmed our findings of 2 to 5 percent of red snapper being affected,” he told the Tampa Bay Times.

Affected fish suffer from skin lesions, fin rot, parasitic infections and enlarged livers, gallbladders and bile ducts. Cowan further explained that laboratory studies of sick fish from the area “are beginning to trickle out that show that chronic exposure to oil and dispersant causes everything from impacts to the genome to compromised immune systems. Similar findings … are being found in shrimps and crabs in the same locations. I absolutely believe these things are connected to the spill.”

Scientists hope to learn more about fish in the area when they conduct a second survey of the Gulf next month. Those findings are scheduled to be released on April 20, the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion.