To understand the relative influences of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) on patterns of marine microbial diversity and community composition, we examined bacterial diversity and community composition of seawater from 12 sites in the North Atlantic Ocean and Canadian Arctic and sediment from two sites in the North Atlantic. For the seawater analyses, we included samples from three to six zones in the water column of each site. For the sediment analyses, we included over 20 sediment horizons at each of two sites. For all samples, we amplified the V4–V5 hypervariable region of the 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene. We analyzed each sample in two different ways: (i) by clustering its reads into 97%-similar OTUs and (ii) by assigning sequences to unique ASVs. OTU richness is much higher than ASV richness for every sample, but both OTUs and ASVs exhibit similar vertical patterns of relative diversity in both the water column and the sediment. Bacterial richness is highest just below the photic zone in the water column and at the seafloor in the sediment. For both OTUs and ASVs, richness estimates depend on the number of sequences analyzed. Both methods yield broadly similar community compositions for each sample at the taxonomic levels of phyla to families. While the two methods yield different richness values, broad-scale patterns of relative richness and community composition are similar with both methods.