The marine bacterium Alteromonas macleodii is a copiotrophic r-strategist, but little is known about its potential to degrade polysaccharides. Here, we studied the degradation of alginate and other algal polysaccharides by A. macleodii strain 83-1 in comparison to other A. macleodii strains. Cell densities of strain 83-1 with alginate as sole carbon source were comparable to those with glucose, but the exponential phase was delayed. The genome of 83-1 was found to harbour an alginolytic system comprising five alginate lyases, whose expression was induced by alginate. The alginolytic system contains additional CAZymes, including two TonB-dependent receptors, and is part of a 24 kb genomic island unique to the A. macleodii ‘surface clade’ ecotype. In contrast, strains of the ‘deep clade’ ecotype contain only a single alginate lyase in a separate 7 kb island. This difference was reflected in an eightfold greater efficiency of surface clade strains to grow on alginate. Strain 83-1 furthermore hydrolysed laminarin, pullulan and xylan, and corresponding polysaccharide utilization loci were detected in the genome. Alteromonas macleodii alginate lyases were predominantly detected in Atlantic Ocean metagenomes. The demonstrated hydrolytic capacities are likely of ecological relevance and represent another level of adaptation among A. macleodii ecotypes.