Chromophoric or colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) is one of the principal light adsorbing components of seawater, particularly in the ultraviolet, where it attenuates over 90% of downwelling ultraviolet radiation. In highly productive coastal regions and throughout most of the global ocean, in situ biological production is the major source of CDOM. However, little is known about CDOM composition on the molecular level, and there are only a few reports that link CDOM composition to autochthonous biological sources. Here we report the isolation and characterization of CDOM components from one coastal and two open-ocean sites. Each sample contains a complex mixture of light absorbing (300-400 nm) components, including 2,4-dichlorobenzoic acid and a suite of novel, polychlorinated biphenyl carboxylic acids that closely resemble polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) of anthropogenic origin. However, the global inventory and isomer distribution of dissolved chlorinated aromatic acids suggest they are derived from in situ biological production rather than anthropogenic contaminants. These novel chlorinated aromatic acids account for a significant amount of CDOM adsorption in the ultraviolet.