Sediment bacteria play important roles in the biogeochemistry of ocean sediments; however, factors influencing assemblage composition have not been extensively studied. We examined extractable sediment bacterial abundance, the composition of bacterial assemblages using a high-throughput molecular fingerprinting approach, and several sediment biogeochemical parameters (organic matter content and alkaline phosphatase activity), along a 35 km transect from Point Fermin, Southern California, to Santa Catalina Island, across the approximately 900-m-deep San Pedro Basin. Automated rRNA intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) demonstrated that in two spatially isolated shallow (approximately < 60 m, on opposite sides of the channel) sediment environments, assemblages were more similar to each other than to deeper communities. Distinct communities existed in deeper and shallower sediments, and stations within the deep basin over 2 km apart contained remarkably similar assemblage fingerprints. The relative contribution to total amplified DNA fluorescence of operational taxonomic units (OTUs) was significantly correlated to that of other OTUs in few comparisons (2.7% of total), i.e. few bacterial types were found together or apart consistently. The relative proportions within assemblages of only a few OTU were significantly correlated to measured physicochemical parameters (organic matter content and wet/dry weight ratio of sediments) or enzyme (alkaline phosphatase) activities. A low percentage of shared OTU between shallow and deep sediments, and the presence of similar, but spatially isolated assemblages suggests that bacterial OTU may be widely dispersed over scales of a few kilometres, but that environmental conditions select for particular assemblages.