We used a population genetic approach to quantify major population subdivisions and patterns of migration within a broadly distributed Indo-Pacific parrotfish. We genotyped 15 microsatellite loci in Scarus rubroviolaceus collected from 20 localities between Africa and the Americas. A STRUCTURE model indicates the presence of four major populations: Eastern Pacific, Hawaii, Central-West Pacific and a less well-differentiated Indian Ocean. We used the isolation and migration model to estimate splitting times, population sizes and migration patterns between sister population pairs. To eliminate loci under selection, we used BayeScan to select loci for three isolation and migration models: Eastern Pacific and Central-West Pacific, Hawaii and the Central-West Pacific, and Indian Ocean and the Central-West Pacific. To test the assumption of a stepwise mutation model (SMM), we used likelihood to test the SMM against a two-phase model that allowed mutational complexity. A posteriori, minor departures from SMM were estimated to affect ≤2% of the alleles in the data. The data were informative about the contemporary and ancestral population sizes, migration rates and the splitting time in the eastern Pacific/Central-West Pacific comparison. The model revealed a splitting time ∼17 000 bp, a larger contemporary Ne in the Central-West Pacific than in the eastern Pacific and a strong bias of east to west migration. These characteristics support the Center of Accumulation model of peripatric diversification in low-diversity peripheral sites and perhaps migration from those sites to the western Pacific diversity hotspot.