In early 2004 the Victoria Land Transect project sampled coastal north-western Ross Sea shelf benthos at Cape Adare, Cape Hallett, Cape Russell and Coulman Island from 100–500 m deep. We describe the benthic macrofaunal assemblages at these locations and, to assess the use of seafloor sediment characteristics and/or depth measures in bioregionalizations, determine the extent to which assemblage compositions are related to measured differences in these factors. Percentages of fine sand and silt, the ratio of sediment chlorophyll a to phaeophytin, and depth were identified as important explanatory variables, but in combination they explained only 17.3% of between-location differences in assemblages. Consequently, these variables are clearly not strong determinants of macrofaunal assemblage structure. Latitude per se was not a useful measure of community variability and change. A significant correlation between both number of individuals and number of taxa and sediment phaeophytin concentration across locations suggests that the distribution of the benthos reflects their response to seafloor productivity. A number of factors not measured in this study have probably influenced the structure and function of assemblages and habitats. We discuss the implications of the results to marine classifications, and stress the need to incorporate biogenic habitat complexity into protection strategies.