Abstract Background Genetic diversity and heterogeneous genomic signatures in marine fish populations may result from selection pressures driven by the strong effects of environmental change. Nearshore fishes are often exposed to complex environments and human activities, especially those with small ranges. However, studies on genetic diversity and population selection signals in these species have mostly been based on a relatively small number of genetic markers. As a newly recorded species of Sillaginidae, the population genetics and genomic selection signals of Sillago sinica are fragmented or even absent. Results To address this theoretical gap, we performed whole-genome resequencing of 43 S. sinica individuals from Dongying (DY), Qingdao (QD) and Wenzhou (WZ) populations and obtained 4,878,771 high-quality SNPs. Population genetic analysis showed that the genetic diversity of S. sinica populations was low, but the genetic diversity of the WZ population was higher than that of the other two populations. Interestingly, the three populations were not strictly clustered within the group defined by their sampling location but showed an obvious geographic structure signal from the warm temperate to the subtropics. With further analysis, warm-temperate populations exhibited strong selection signals in genomic regions related to nervous system development, sensory function and immune function. However, subtropical populations showed more selective signalling for environmental tolerance and stress signal transduction. Conclusions Genome-wide SNPs provide high-quality data to support genetic studies and localization of selection signals in S. sinica populations. The reduction in genetic diversity may be related to the bottleneck effect. Considering that low genetic diversity leads to reduced environmental adaptability, conservation efforts and genetic diversity monitoring of this species should be increased in the future. Differences in genomic selection signals between warm temperate and subtropical populations may be related to human activities and changes in environmental complexity. This study deepened the understanding of population genetics and genomic selection signatures in nearshore fishes and provided a theoretical basis for exploring the potential mechanisms of genomic variation in marine fishes driven by environmental selection pressures.