Aerobic anoxygenic phototrophic (AAP) bacteria are found in a range of aquatic and terrestrial environments, potentially playing unique roles in biogeochemical cycles. Although known to occur in the Arctic Ocean, their ecology and the factors that govern their community structure and distribution in this extreme environment are poorly understood. Here, we examined summer AAP abundance and diversity in the North East Pacific and the Arctic Ocean with emphasis on the southern Beaufort Sea. AAP bacteria comprised up to 10 and 14% of the prokaryotic community in the bottom nepheloid layer and surface waters of the Mackenzie plume, respectively. However, relative AAP abundances were low in offshore waters. Environmental pufM clone libraries revealed that AAP bacteria in the Alphaproteobacteria and Betaproteobacteria classes dominated in offshore and in river-influenced surface waters, respectively. The most frequent AAP group was a new uncultivated betaproteobacterial clade whose abundance decreased along the salinity gradient of the Mackenzie plume even though its photosynthetic genes were actively expressed in offshore waters. Our data indicate that AAP bacterial assemblages represented a mixture of freshwater and marine taxa mostly restricted to the Arctic Ocean and highlight the substantial influence of riverine inputs on their distribution in coastal environments.