Sustainable management of sea mullet (Mugil cephalus) fisheries needs to account for recent observations of regional-scale differentiation. Population genetic analysis is sought to assess the situation of this ecologically and economically important fish species in eastern Australian waters. Here, we report (i) new population genetic markers [single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and potential microsatellites], (ii) first estimates of spatial genetic differentiation and (iii) prospective power tests for designing more comprehensive studies. Six DNA samples from three sampling regions (North Queensland, South Queensland and central New South Wales) on the eastern coast of Australia were used to prepare restriction site associated DNA (RAD) tag libraries from genomic DNA digested with EcoRI and MseI. A pooled sample of regional RAD tag libraries was sequenced using the Roche GS-FLX Titanium platform. A total of 172 837 raw reads (17.4 Mbp) were retrieved, 95 500 of which were used to discover 1267 SNPs and 1417 microsatellites. A subset of 161 SNPs was validated based on 63 additional DNA samples genotyped using the Sequenom MassArray (iPLEX Gold chemistry). Altogether 92 SNPs (57%) were confirmed, with 40% of these marking fixed variants between northern and southern sampling regions. Our preliminary findings indicate a multispecies fishery stock of M. cephalus in eastern Australian waters, but suggest that strong genetic differentiation occurs north of major fishing grounds. Low potential differentiation within major fishing grounds (e.g. FST = 0.0025) can be resolved with a likely power ≥67% by using standard sample sizes of 50 and validated subsets of available markers.