The degradation of allochthonous terrestrial organic matter, such as recalcitrant lignin and hemicellulose from plants, occurs in the ocean. We hypothesize that bacteria instead of white-rot fungi, the model organisms of aerobic lignin degradation within terrestrial environments, are responsible for lignin degradation in the ocean due to the ocean's oligotrophy and hypersalinity. Warm oxic seawater from the Eastern Mediterranean Sea was enriched on lignin in laboratory microcosms. Lignin mineralization rates by the lignin-adapted consortia improved after two sequential incubations. Shotgun metagenomic sequencing detected a higher abundance of aromatic compound degradation genes in response to lignin, particularly phenylacetyl-CoA, which may be an effective strategy for marine microbes in fluctuating oxygen concentrations. 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing detected a higher abundance of Gammaproteobacteria and Alphaproteobacteria bacteria such as taxonomic families Idiomarinaceae, Alcanivoraceae, and Alteromonadaceae in response to lignin. Meanwhile, fungal Ascomycetes and Basidiomycetes remained at very low abundance. Our findings demonstrate the significant potential of bacteria and microbes utilizing the phenylacetyl-CoA pathway to contribute to lignin degradation in the Eastern Mediterranean where environmental conditions are unfavorable for fungi. Exploring the diversity of bacterial lignin degraders may provide important enzymes for lignin conversion in industry. Enzymes may be key in breaking down high molecular weight lignin and enabling industry to use it as a low-cost and sustainable feedstock for biofuels or other higher-value products.