Home research Research Themes Environmental Rivers and Lochs Institute Staff Dr. Alastair Stephen, Senior Research Associate

Dr. Alastair Stephen, Senior Research Associate


I work full time for Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) as a Senior Environmental Advisor, and I am currently seconded to RLI for two days a month. My job over the past 18 years has been to help manage and reduce the impact SSE’s hydro generation has on the freshwater environment in Scotland. I have a BSc in Zoology from Aberdeen University (1981) and a PhD from Stirling University (1987). The latter was on the subject of population genetics of Brown Trout in Scotland. Since my degree at Stirling I have undertaken work on trout populations and their management for the HIDB/Assynt Estates, and was involved in establishing the West Galloway Fisheries Trust in South West Scotland where I was its principle biologist of the first seven years. I was also involved in helping to establish many of the other Fisheries Trusts in the 1990s.


I am not directly involved in academic research at SSE but I am directly involved in directing and commissioning projects that lead to better environmental management decisions being taken. The type of work with which I am involved includes:

  • Assessing the impacts of changing river flows on the freshwater ecology – in relation to the European Water Framework Directive (WFD).
  • Use of accurate aerial photography to quantify bathymetry and sediment sizes in highland rivers
  • Assessing the effectiveness of fish passage facilities at hydro dams using fish counters
  • Quantifying downstream passage of salmon smolts in hydro affected catchments using PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags.
  • Improving the effectiveness of Borland Fish lifts by adjusting flow regimes and using an integrated camera system to monitor alternatives
  • Use of the Heisey Balloon tagging technique to assess and then improve fish survival at hydro sites where smolt passage is via the main machines.
  • Supporting relevant research and monitoring schemes being undertaken by the local District Fishery Boards and the associated Fisheries Trusts
  • Assessing the different approaches to improving river connectivity at a number of weirs / abstraction sites again within the context of the WFD, and the Habitats and Species Directive.


My list of academic publications over the past 15 years is limited as producing such literature is not part of my job within SSE. However I am heavily involved with the Institute of Fisheries Management and was jointly responsible for the recent Code of Good Practice for Freshwater Fisheries Management. Part 1 Salmon and Brown Trout (2012) endorsed by the Scottish Government

Previous relevant papers/articles include:

Stephen AB (1990) A fresh approach to Salmon Research in West Galloway . Salmon Net No 22 Oct

Stephen AB and McAndrew BJ (1990) Distribution of genetic variation in brown trout (Salmo trutta L.) in Scotland.  Aquaculture and Fisheries Management 21,47-66

Stephen AB (1990) West Galloway’s Blueprint for the Future. Article in October edition of Salmon Trout and Sea Trout Magazine

Stephen AB (1994) The West Galloway Fisheries Trust - 5 Year Review and Progress Report

West Galloway Fisheries Trust (1995) - Salmon in the Classroom- Education pack produced by Dumfries and Galloway Education Dept and WGFT.

Forbes HE, Smith GW, Johnstone ADF and Stephen AB (2000) An assessment of the performance of the resistivity fish counter in the Borland lift fish pass at  Dundreggan Dam on the River Moriston. Fisheries Research Services 02/00

Puhr CB, Donoghue DN, Stephen AB, Tervet DJ and Sinclair C (2000) Regional patterns of streamwater acidity and catchment afforestation in Galloway. S.W. Scotland. Water, Air and Soil Pollution 120 : 47 -70

Stephen AB (2001) Scottish and Southern Energy - Hydro Generation. Fisheries Review 1997 - 2001. Internal publication

Forbes HE, Smith GW, Johnstone ADF and Stephen AB (2002) Testing the effectiveness of changes to operation of a Borland lift fish pass. Fisheries Research Services 05/02

Gilvear DJ, Heal KV  and Stephen AB (2002) Hydrology and the ecological quality of Scottish ecosystems. The Science of the Total Environment 294, 131-159

Hendry K, Cragg-Hine D, O’Grady M, Sambrook H, and Stephen AB (2003) Management of habitat for rehabilitation and enhancement of salmonid stocks. Fisheries Research 62 171-192

Stephen AB and Anderson H (2003) The Scottish Fisheries Co-ordination Centre. In the Proceedings of the Institute of Fisheries Management 32nd Annual Study Conference 11-13th Sept 2001.

Thorley JL, Eatherley DMR, Stephen AB, Simpson I, Maclean JC and Youngson AF (2005) Congruence between automatic fish counter data and rod catches of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in Scottish Rivers. ICES Joural of Marine Science, 62 : 809-817

Clough S, Austin H., Stephen AB. and Crookall D (2010) River flow issues – The Hydropower Industry Perspective. AST conference in York.


I have been a guest lecturer at a number of universities, and I have been involved in developing various vocational educational resources including :

  • Developing the original Scottish Fisheries Coordination Centre electrofishing and habitat assessment training materials
  • Modules within  the SVQ/NVQ  2 and 3 for Fisheries Management
  • Modules within the Institute of Fisheries Management training courses
  • Primary School – “Salmon in the Classroom” teaching pack developed with Dumfries and Galloway Education Department – which won “Operation Brightwater award” for best education project in 1992. This has now been adopted across many areas of Scotland and has been sponsored by SNH.

Additional Activities

I have served on many fishery related committees and currently sit on the following :

  • Institute of Fisheries Management - Scottish Branch committee
  • Scottish Fisheries Coordination Centre - Management Committee
  • Spey Foundation Committee
  • Trustee of Cromarty Firth Fisheries Trust