Although many coastal shark species have widespread distributions, the genetic relatedness of worldwide populations has been examined for few species. The blacktip shark, (Carcharhinus limbatus), inhabits tropical and subtropical coastal waters throughout the world. In this study, we examined the genetic relationships of blacktip shark populations (n = 364 sharks) throughout the majority of the species’ range using the entire mitochondrial control region (1067–1070 nucleotides). Two geographically distinct maternal lineages (western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea clades, and eastern Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Ocean clades) were identified and shallow population structure was detected throughout their geographic ranges. These findings indicate that a major population subdivision exists across the Atlantic Ocean, but not the Pacific Ocean. The historical dispersal of this widespread, coastal species may have been interrupted by the rise of the Isthmus of Panama. This scenario implies historical dispersal across the Pacific Ocean (supported by the recovery of the same common haplotype from the Philippines, Hawaii, and the Gulf of California reflecting recent/contemporary dispersal abilities) and an oceanic barrier to recent migration across the Atlantic. Genetic structure within the eastern Atlantic/Indo-Pacific (ΦST = 0.612, P < 0.001) supports maternal philopatry throughout this area, expanding previous western Atlantic findings. Eastern Atlantic/Indo-Pacific C. limbatus control region haplotypes were paraphyletic to Carcharhinus tilstoni haplotypes in our maximum-parsimony analysis. The greater divergence of western Atlantic C. limbatus than C. tilstoni from eastern Atlantic/Indo-Pacific C. limbatus reflects the taxonomic uncertainty of western Atlantic C. limbatus.