Chondrus crispus Stackh. has been intensely studied, yet no study to date has elucidated its population structure or mating system despite many populations in which there was a haploid bias and lack of male gametophytes. Therefore, 12 nuclear microsatellite loci were identified in this red alga. Microsatellite markers were developed and tested against a panel of specimens collected from two shore levels at two sites in Brittany, France: Pointe de Primel and Pointe de la Jument, Concarneau. Single locus genetic determinism was verified at eight polymorphic loci, as only one band was observed for haploid genotypes, whereas one or two bands were observed for diploids. These markers enabled the detection of unique genotypes within sampled populations, indicating that very few fronds shared the same multilocus genotype. This finding suggests that asexual reproduction was not the prevailing mode of reproduction. In addition, we explored the hierarchical population structure showing that gene flow is restricted at small spatial scales (<50m) between upper and lower Chondrus-range populations within a shore. Sexual reproduction predominated in the populations of C. crispus studied, but probably due to fine-scale spatial substructuring, inbreeding was also significant. In conclusion, this study reveals that fine-scale genetic variation is of major importance in C. crispus, suggesting that differences between microhabitats should be essential in understanding evolutionary processes in this species. © 2011 Phycological Society of America.