Recently, 454 sequencing has emerged as a popular method for isolating microsatellites owing to cost-effectiveness and time saving. In this study, repeat-enriched libraries from two southern African endemic sparids (Pachymetopon blochii and Lithognathus lithognathus) were 454 GS-FLX sequenced. From these, 7370 sequences containing repeats (SCRs) were identified. A brief survey of 23 studies showed a significant difference between the number of SCRs when enrichment was performed first before 454 sequencing. We designed primers for 302 unique fragments containing more than five repeat units and suitable flanking regions. A fraction (<11%) of these loci were characterized with 18 polymorphic microsatellite loci (nine in each of the focal species) being described. Sanger sequencing of alleles confirmed that size variation was because of differences in the number of tandem repeats. However, a case of homoplasy and sequencing errors in the 454 sequencing were identified. These newly developed and four previously isolated loci were successfully used to identify polymorphic markers in nine other economically important species, representative of sparid diversity. The combination of newly developed markers with data from previous sparid cross-species studies showed a significant negative correlation between genetic divergence to focal species and microsatellite transferability. The high level of transferability we described (48% amplification success and 32% polymorphism) suggests that the 302 microsatellite loci identified represent an excellent resource for future studies on sparids. Microsatellite marker development should commonly include tests of transferability to reduce costs and increase feasibility of population genetics studies in nonmodel organisms.