Abstract. A data set of radiometric measurements collected in the Beaufort Sea (Canadian Arctic) in August 2009 (MALINA project) is analysed in order to describe apparent optical properties (AOPs) in this sea, which is subject to dramatic environmental changes for several decades. The two properties derived from the measurements are the spectral diffuse attenuation coefficient for downward irradiance, Kd, and the spectral remote sensing reflectance, Rrs. The former controls light propagation in the upper water column. The latter determines how light is backscattered out of the water and becomes eventually observable from a satellite ocean colour sensor. The data set includes offshore clear waters of the Beaufort basin as well as highly turbid waters of the Mackenzie River plumes. In the clear waters, we show Kd values that are much larger in the ultraviolet and blue parts of the spectrum than what could be anticipated considering the chlorophyll concentration. A larger contribution of absorption by coloured dissolved organic matter (CDOM) is responsible for this high Kd values, as compared to other oligotrophic areas. In turbid waters, attenuation reaches extremely high values, driven by high loads of particulate materials and also by a large CDOM content. In these two extreme types of waters, current satellite chlorophyll algorithms fail. This is questioning the role of ocean colour remote sensing in the Arctic when Rrs from only the blue and green bands are used. Therefore, other parts of the spectrum (e.g. the red) should be explored if one aims at quantifying interannual changes in chlorophyll in the Arctic from space. The very peculiar AOPs in the Beaufort Sea also advocate for developing specific light propagation models when attempting to predict light availability for photosynthesis at depth.