Several studies have suggested that estuaries, lagoons and enclosed embayments may offer special opportunities for local subdivision in marine species. We used data from published papers and unpublished theses to examine the effect of such water bodies on allozyme differentiation of seven species of inshore fishes in Western Australia. We included species that differ in their dispersal, and hence their intrinsic potential for gene flow. Over large distances, subdivision was generally greater among estuarine populations than among conspecific marine populations collected over similar distances. Over small distances, paired marine and estuarine samples were generally more divergent than pairs of marine samples separated by similar distances. For species with a low capability for dispersal, estuaries appear to add to the high levels of genetic subdivision that commonly result from other factors. Under special circumstances estuaries may also provide opportunities for genetic divergence in species with a high capability of dispersal that are rarely subdivided at a large geographical scale. These observations indicate that estuaries can increase the genetic subdivision of populations of inshore fishes, and that species that use both marine and estuarine habitats are likely to have greater genetic subdivision than those that are restricted to marine habitats.