Vibrio vulnificus is an autochthonous estuarine bacterium and a pathogen that is frequently transmitted via raw shellfish. Septicemia can occur within 24 h; however, isolation and confirmation from water and oysters require days. Real-time PCR assays were developed to detect and differentiate two 16S rRNA variants, types A and B, which were previously associated with environmental sources and clinical fatalities, respectively. Both assays could detect 10 2 to 103 V. vulnificus total cells in seeded estuarine water and in oyster homogenates. PCR assays on 11 reference V. vulnificus strains and 22 nontarget species gave expected results (type A or B for V. vulnificus and negative for nontarget species). The relationship between cell number and cycle threshold for the assays was linear (R2 = >0.93). The type A/B ratio of Florida clinical isolates was compared to that of isolates from oysters harvested in Florida waters. This ratio was 19:17 in clinical isolates and 5:8 (n = 26) in oysters harvested from restricted sites with poor water quality but was 10:1 (n = 22) in oysters from permitted sites with good water quality. A substantial percentage of isolates from oysters (19.4%) were type AB (both primer sets amplified), but no isolates from overlying waters were type AB. The real-time PCR assays were sensitive, specific, and quantitative in water samples and could also differentiate the strains in oysters without requiring isolation of V. vulnificus and may therefore be useful for rapid detection of the pathogen in shellfish and water, as well as further investigation of its population dynamics.