Many studies use genetic markers to explore population structure and variability within species. However, only a minority use more than one type of marker and, despite increasing evidence of a link between heterozygosity and individual fitness, few ask whether diversity correlates with population trajectory. To address these issues, we analysed data from the Steller's sea lion, Eumetiopias jubatus, where three stocks are distributed over a vast geographical range and where both genetic samples and detailed demographic data have been collected from many diverse breeding colonies. To previously published mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and microsatellite data sets, we have added new data for amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers, comprising 238 loci scored in 285 sea lions sampled from 23 natal rookeries. Genotypic diversity was low relative to most vertebrates, with only 37 loci (15.5%) being polymorphic. Moreover, contrasting geographical patterns of genetic diversity were found at the three markers, with Nei's gene diversity tending to be higher for AFLPs and microsatellites in rookeries of the western and Asian stocks, while the highest mtDNA values were found in the eastern stock. Overall, and despite strongly contrasting demographic histories, after applying phylogenetic correction we found little correlation between genetic diversity and either colony size or demography. In contrast, we were able to show a highly significant positive relationship between AFLP diversity and current population size across a range of pinniped species, even though equivalent analyses did not reveal significant trends for either microsatellites or mtDNA.