Knox County lobstermen saw their income plummet 18 percent last year, according to preliminary landing reports.

The amount of lobster landed across the state reached a record high but the price per pound paid to the harvesters continued to fall, resulting in a significant decline in income. The 75.6 million pounds of lobster landed in Maine were the most since the Maine Department of Marine Resources and National Marine Fisheries Service began keeping records.

Department of Marine Resources records go back to 1950, but only since 2004 have dealers been required to provide information on the lobsters sold to them.

In Knox County, the number of pounds was up slightly in 2009 compared with 2008. Local lobstermen hauled in 20.3 million pounds of the crustacean in 2009, 81,000 pounds more than in 2008. But the income that these landings produced fell sharply.

Knox County lobstermen were paid $57.4 million in 2009, down nearly $12.5 million from $69.9 million paid at the docks in 2008.

Lobsters are the most valuable seafood in Maine, accounting for about 80 percent of the value of the state’s fisheries.

Since 2005, income earned by Knox County lobstermen has fallen 40 percent from a high of $98.3 million when they landed $21.4 million pounds

The drop is due to a sharp decline in the average per pound price paid to lobstermen. In 2005, Knox County lobstermen were paid $4.59 per pound, but last year that had fallen to $2.83 per pound as the recession sharply reduced the demand for lobsters. Maine restaurants saw overall sales down in 2009.

The 2009 landings report also showed that Knox County lost its position as the top lobster producer in Maine. Hancock County landings took over first place with 22,481,001 pounds valued at $66.8 million.

Washington County lobstermen hauled in 12.7 million pounds with a value of $36.5 million. Cumberland County landings totaled 9.6 million pounds with a value of $28.4 million. Lincoln County landings were 5.6 million pounds with a value of $16.4 million. York County landings were 3.2 million pounds with a value of $10.7 million. Waldo County landings were 185,000 pounds with a value of $532,000.

The state and federal report showed that there were 4,330 active lobstermen in the state in 2009, down from 4,507 in 2008.

Knox County lobstermen have seen their incomes drop each year since the record of 2005 although the pounds landed have remained relatively stable. In 2005, Knox County lobstermen were paid $98.3 million. That dropped about 6 percent in 2006 to $92 million. That fell by 9 percent in 2007 to $83.3 million and fell another 16 percent in 2008 to $69.9 million. The 2009 catch fell by 18 percent to $57.4 million.