This study compares estimates of the census size of the spawning population with genetic estimates of effective current and long-term population size for an abundant and commercially important marine invertebrate, the brown tiger prawn (Penaeus esculentus). Our aim was to focus on the relationship between genetic effective and census size that may provide a source of information for viability analyses of naturally occurring populations. Samples were taken in 2001, 2002 and 2003 from a population on the east coast of Australia and temporal allelic variation was measured at eight polymorphic microsatellite loci. Moments-based and maximum-likelihood estimates of current genetic effective population size ranged from 797 to 1304. The mean long-term genetic effective population size was 9968. Although small for a large population, the effective population size estimates were above the threshold where genetic diversity is lost at neutral alleles through drift or inbreeding. Simulation studies correctly predicted that under these experimental conditions the genetic estimates would have non-infinite upper confidence limits and revealed they might be overestimates of the true size. We also show that estimates of mortality and variance in family size may be derived from data on average fecundity, current genetic effective and census spawning population size, assuming effective population size is equivalent to the number of breeders. This work confirms that it is feasible to obtain accurate estimates of current genetic effective population size for abundant Type III species using existing genetic marker technology.