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A boat’s crew casts a net into the seemingly clean waters off Shizuoka Prefecture’s Izu peninsula, but not to catch fish — they are scooping up microplastics to learn more about the pollution’s impact on marine life.

Tiny floating fragments from plastic packaging, synthetic clothing and fishing nets have proliferated over the past four decades and are now found in every part of the world’s oceans — even the deepest trench.

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