The days of the traditional wooden fish crate stenciled with the name of the fishing boat it belongs to are numbered. Under a decision issued yesterday by the Agriculture Ministry, fishermen must gradually replace their old crates with plastic boxes to conform with European Union hygiene regulations. A ministry announcement said wooden crates must have been withdrawn from use by the end of December. «The multiple-use wooden fish crate used until now will be gradually replaced by the end of the year with a new type of fish box that can be easily cleaned and disinfected,» the statement said. Fishermen and fish farm owners will be able to start buying the new plastic crates from next Wednesday, while fishmongers will have to wait another three weeks. Use of the old crates will be banned from January 1.