Vibrio vulnificus is a ubiquitous inhabitant of the marine coastal environment, and an important pathogen of humans. We characterized a globally distributed sample of environmental isolates from a range of habitats and hosts and compared these with isolates recovered from cases of human infection. Multilocus sequence typing data using six housekeeping genes divided 63 of the 67 isolates into the two main lineages previously noted for this species, and this division was also confirmed using the 16S rRNA and open reading frame VV0401 markers. Lineage I was comprised exclusively of biotype I isolates, whereas lineage H contained biotype I and all biotype 2 isolates. Four isolates did not cluster within either lineage: two biotype 3 and two biotype I isolates. The proportion of isolates recovered from a clinical setting was noted to be higher in lineage I than in lineage H. Lineage I isolates were also associated with a 33-kb genomic island (region XII), one of three regions identified by genome comparisons as unique to the species. Region XII contained an arylsulfatase gene cluster, a sulfate reduction system, two chondroitinase genes, and an oligopeptide ABC transport system, all of which are absent from the majority of lineage 11 isolates. Arylsulfatases and the sulfate reduction system, along with performing a scavenging role, have been hypothesized to play a role in pathogenic processes in other bacteria. Our data suggest that lineage I may have a higher pathogenic potential and that region XII, along with other regions, may give isolates a selective advantage either in the human host or in the aquatic environment or both.