Phytoplankton are an important component of the oceanic carbon cycle. Yet, due to methodological constraints, the carbon biomass of phytoplankton is poorly characterized. To address this limitation, we have explored the bio-optical relationship between in situ measurements of the particle backscattering coefficient at 470 nm, bbp(470), and the phytoplankton carbon concentration for cells with diameter less than 20 µm (Cf). We found a significant relationship between bbp(470) and Cf for Atlantic oceanic waters with chlorophyll-a concentrations less than 0.4 mg m−3 (or bbp(470) < 0.003 m−1). This relationship could be used to estimate Cf from data collected by in situ autonomous platforms and from remote sensing of ocean color.